Okay, maybe there is something better...feeling like you had a hand in helping them to get to that life-changing moment is pretty freaking great.
Kristin's first marathon left me feeling awed and inspired. I was moved to tears throughout the day and was so humbled and grateful to be a part of it. In a way I feel guilty that being there for Kristin's big day gave me so much joy because really, it's about her success and victory, but I couldn't help basking in the exhilaration of the day. Being there was simply one of the best experiences and memories of my running life!
|Kristin pre-race, courtesy of Stephen. She looks excited and ready!|
|At WWS extremely early, sitting in my car, way over-excited.|
My favorite was: "How many first time marathoners do we have out here? How many last time marathoners?" (chuckle chuckle) "You say that now, but this time next year you'll be frantically hitting refresh on the Run Disney website, waiting to sign up."
Well, he's not wrong.
|Runners in the stadium.|
Around 9am I made my way to our first meeting spot. I was terrified I would miss her and texted Kristin's husband a million times ("What if I'm late? What if I miss her here and at 19? I just saw the 5:30 pacer, am I too late?") like a lunatic. I honestly was so, so afraid to let her down. I knew she was counting on me.
Finally, I spotted her! I handed her a cup of ice and ran alongside her for a bit. At 17.5 miles in, she looked great! She was keeping a steady pace, but seemed to be tiring out a little bit. I reminded her that she was into single-digits - only 9 miles to go! - and that seemed to lift her spirits a little.
|Runners entering WWS. You can see how gray the weather was.|
At this point, she was struggling. She told me she understood what I had meant by the "dark" part of the race. I did my best to shake her out of it and encourage her. Tell your brain to shut up. Your body knows what to do and is ready for this. You can do seven more miles. At that point I had to leave her, but I knew she'd see Stephen again and then the finish line would be there!
|Kristin leaving me for her final 10k!|
I speed-walked through Epcot, basically pushing people aside, because the buses were pretty far from the finish and I was on a mission. I refused to miss Kristin crossing that finish line.
|The most crowded finish line I've ever seen.|
People were crossing the line in huge groups, walking, blocking each other, stopping to take photos...It was just a cluster.
|Unamused by all the people between me and my runner.|
Luckily, I did. Kind of.
|Official time: 5:55!|
I wound my way back out of the stands and found Kristin sitting on the ground surrounded by family, and I immediately dropped down for the best hug ever. I was grinning wildly, and I kept saying, "You did it!" and she kept saying, "I get it now, I get it."
And that's it, isn't it? You really can't get it until you do it.
We took some pictures and made our way to the resort buses. Kristin and I sat together on the incredibly smelly bus and rehashed the race a bit. Listening to her talk about her experience was so rewarding.
|Kristin and her support team. Check out Stephen's awesome shirt.|
|Gluten-free everything, including cornbread and dessert. Best post-race meal ever!|
To which I replied, "So you're blaming me?" and we laughed.
Then she said, "Not blaming. Crediting." And I can take that compliment and enjoy it, because it really did remind me that you don't have to be a particularly gifted runner to inspire others and help them reach for new goals - goals they may never have even considered otherwise.
And really, it felt so good to feel included in such a huge moment. I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. Kristin deserved to have a million people out on that course supporting her, and I feel so lucky that I was able to be there for her like she's always been there for me.
And now, she's enjoying a few days on a cruise with her family and hopefully basking in the glorious afterglow of finishing her first marathon. I'd say she deserves it!